Silicon Insider: Death of a Magazine

No one had attempted anything like this since Esquire in the 1960s. And the result was some of the best essays of the era … all from an electronics "trade" magazine. Little wonder that I was told by some of my competitors that their fondest career wish was to someday edit the Big Issue.

As a freelancer, I spent six years writing for ASAP in what was at best a prickly relationship. Then, out of the blue, I was asked to edit the magazine. This was at the beginning of the dot-com boom, and my three years in that job was like riding a runaway horse. The magazine seemed to double in size every issue, and all we could do was scramble to keep up. We worked endless hours — and made our parent company millions.

Dot-Com Lost Its Head, But ASAP Never Did

Still, probably because we were staffed with veteran journalists, we never really lost track of reality — unlike many of the other new economy magazines, whose much younger staffs honestly believed the bubble could expand forever.

Besides the Big Issues, I'm most proud of the then-controversial February 2000 issue, when we put a guillotine on the cover and warned the world that the crash was coming. Unfortunately, we were right … and we can take some satisfaction in knowing that while others lost their heads, we fulfilled our duty to our readers.

In retrospect, Forbes ASAP was doomed almost from the start. We were never as inflated in our growth as, say, Industry Standard, so we didn't suffer such a precipitous death-spiral when the advertising base collapsed. But Forbes also never fully freed ASAP from its constraints as a "supplement" to the larger magazine until it was too late.

We were like the child that is never allowed to break loose and build a life of its own — but must remain until middle age at the mercy of an aging and invalided parent. When the magazine industry fell into its worst recession in 75 years, we had no choice but to lean back on the support of our parent magazine … and there was nothing there.

Amid Closing, The Last Laugh

You can't live in Silicon Valley without having heard a thousand stories about how organizations die. Some, ancient and forgotten, just fade away. Others, like many of the dot-coms, suddenly implode, leaving the survivors stunned and howling at the rottenness of it all.

I'm pleased say that we took the news quietly and with a certain fatalism. We all sensed it was coming: The team I'd built, at this point run by my successor, was composed of veterans, some with 30 years of experience in magazine journalism. We all knew the signs: the e-mails that didn't get replies, the budgets that weren't getting approved, the carefully phrased conversations with senior management.

And so, with very little surprise, we found ourselves, the last remnants of what had been the largest-circulation tech business magazine in history, sitting around a single table in a conference room, awaiting the doleful lady from corporate HR.

We weren't our G.I. parents, stunned at being robbed of a pension, or our Gen X children, furious that we hadn't grown rich in our 20s. Rather, we were mostly just a bunch of middle-aged pros who knew the drill and understood that there was more to life than any single job.

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